Smoked Turkey and Blue Cheese Salad in Endive Spears

by Dec 7, 2010

‘Tis the season to know how to whip up a good hors d’oeuvre.  And a big plus if it isn’t based on bread or pastry.  This salad can be served in endive spears for a stand-up-and-mingle kind of party, or on a bed of sliced radicchio and endive for a sit down affair.  I set aside a little of what I prepared for a party yesterday and tonight I’m enjoying it for dinner (with a side of truffle oil popcorn, but that’s another story…)  Homemade goodness to your party and a quick night-after dinner, what more could you ask?  (I originally tore this recipe out of a 1991 Gourmet magazine, may it rest in peace, but have made a few tweaks over the years — the aims of which were to simplify the prep and introduce sweet flavors that play nicely off the blue cheese.)

Smoked Turkey and Blue Cheese Salad in Endive Spears
makes about a pint (2 cups) of salad, enough for about 4 dozen endive spears (…or 2 dozen endive spears and 2-4 main dish salads)

The salad:
8 oz. smoked turkey or chicken, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
a small handful of haricots verts (slim green beans); omit if you can only find big ones
a small handful of watercress stems:  hold the stem end then start chopping from the leaf end back towards your fingers; discard the stem ends (you want mostly leaves, not stems)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, or chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons 1 shallot, split and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon freshly minced tarragon
3 oz. (about 3/4 cup) crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup walnut oil (J. Leblanc is my favorite)
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
The greens:
4 Belgian endive heads, separated into spears
Optional, if planning for a salad:  radicchio, extra endive, extra watercress 
1.  Rinse the beans, cut of the stem ends and blanch in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes.  Remove beans with a slotted spoon or strainer and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the pretty green color.

2.  Combine the diced turkey/chicken, pomegranate seeds, chopped watercress, minced shallot and tarragon in a medium sized bowl.

3.  Place oil and vinegar in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer, swirling pan occasionally.  Stir in blue cheese and pour over salad mixture from step 2.  Stir to combine and add the nuts.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.  Spoon small amounts into endive spears to serve.
Amy’s Kitchen Coach Tips
  • Buy the smoked turkey or chicken at your favorite deli counter.  They can slice 1/4 inch thick pieces for you (instead of the usual thin sandwich-making slices) which you can then dice at home. 
  • Pomegranate seeds.  Yes, it is a challenge getting them out of their skin.  But invest the time once in awhile and store the seeds in a covered container in the refrigerator.  You’ll have a few when you need them and only destroy your manicure once.  You can keep a batch for about a week, maybe 10 days. 
  • If you don’t have a shallot on hand, but do happen to have a green onion or two, use that.  (I find shallots easier to store and keep viable, but you could have a different knack.) 
  • Gorgonzola is really good in this salad, but I also like to use local blue cheese.  We have a great one from Point Reyes.
  • (Oh, and pay no mind to the orange cubes in the photo…orange bell pepper, because I couldn’t find red, but they’re no good in here anyway.)

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